Omega Institute and new beginnings


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I had the privilege to attend a workshop at the Omega Institute last weekend where I joined a number of cancer survivors who were there to learn and there to present. It reminded me of the power of community in the cancer journey. It also allowed me time to understand the lives and hopes and dreams of some very special people. When I speak, I usually arrive the day of the event and have a few hours at a luncheon to get to know the people before doing my show, One Mutant Cell. Then I catch a plane home. This weekend I arrived on Friday and left on Sunday, which meant spending time with those who had come to take part in the Living Well with Cancer conference. Because Omega is in upstate New York, the majority of attendees were from the east coast, but as we all know, cancer does not recognize where you live or what you do. It is the great equalizer. Because I served in the role of Weaver at the conference, I introduced the speakers and spent time with everyone at meals, watching as they became friends and found solace and support for their individual journey from someone else in the same place. There were a number of survivors with metastatic disease in the group, and they had time to talk about living in the strange limbo that is chronic cancer. Most came alone, but some had their caregivers with them, who it was clear were struggling as much as the ones with cancer. It is a new phenomenon that our caregivers in cancer are every bit as much survivors as we are. Studies show they may even experience more stress and anxiety than we do. We heard from Dr. Jeremy Geffen, the creator of the seven levels of healing and a guru in the integrative cancer community. His program has now been adopted by more than 10 cancer centers in the United States. Dr. Geffen earned what he calls his last credential when he was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma a few years ago. We learned writing can heal with breast cancer survivor Sharon Bray, and were entertained by Scott Burton, juggler of strange objects including osteosarcoma. Carolyn Kortge, a survivor of breast cancer, engaged us in spirited walking,and Sandra Gilbert introduced a kind of yoga that is healing and designed for us, meaning it can be done in a chair and does not require major exertion but focuses on breathing: the most important part of yoga. Sandra is now with the Vanderbilt cancer center in Nashville where she will bring her special brand of healing to their integrative program.This all occurred in the bucolic setting that is Omega. Nestled outside the village of Rhinebeck, Omega offers workshops and conferences on a variety of areas where we all occasionally need help: mindfulness, healthy living, artistic creativity, and so much more. Check it out. But most of all it was the connection with each other that took us to a new place of healing during the weekend. I spent time with Kathleen, who is living with metastatic colon cancer. She is also a writer and blogger who has offered one of her creations as a gift for you. Enjoy. And do not forget to connect.

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